Thursday, 21 February 2008

sexy ethics & dirty business: the edgy fashion game of American Apparel

American Apparel clothes are so fucking sexy. And they are so amazingly social to their workers. Wow! They care about their employers so much. But, well, maybe a bit too much...

I was in an American Apparel store just yesterday and wondered about all these great organic clothes that I`ve lately seen a lot in their advertisements. Well, they were mostly used for making the ads, I suppose, pushing their image of a green, ethical brand. If you happen to visit an American Apparel store, you will notice how much is true of AA's green image, and how much we`re actually trapped in a great branding strategy...

Sexy and sweatshop free
American Apparel has had a lot of positive response to their clothes. The cuts are very good indeed, the materials soft. If you look around in the right areas, you can easily pick out the AA garments passing by. They are good, sexy, sweatshop free. They care for their workers, paying more than minimum wage, paying insurances, and offering yoga and language courses under working time. That is rather progressive considering the circumstances elsewhere.

Conscious creatives use American Apparel shirts to make ethically correct screen print Tees. But somehow I am suspicious. I is all image, really. And if not, they better proof it. Earlier the company promised to convert to 80 percent organic in 2010, well, let`s see how far they are. Hey there in Downtown LA, tell us you`re keeping your green promises!

Critics on American Apparel

I just went for a quick search of info on the company and found some interesting critics:

- American Apparel has been selling flip-flops from Thailand in their shops lately, therefor breaking their rule to produce a vertically-integrated, sweatshop free goods

- Mr. Charney, CEO of the company, has a bit of a lose sexual style. Well, if the ads not told you already, linking to seventies porn, edgy advertising is their core business, but here it is not only image, but a working atmosphere. Charney (see pic of him in underwear on the working floor) has been accused by several former American Apparel employees of being sexually harassed by him at work. Although he denies being sexually offensive, he admits that enjoys sexual free working conditions at the 'vertically integrated' company.

- American Apparel is the largest T-shirt manufacturer, and operates the largest garment factory in the United States. The company is said to be one of the fastest growing companies in America. Sexy ethics sell indeed...

- Earlier the company has been taking steps against union forming initiatives of their employees.

Legalize LA campaign
Something that really speaks for the company and might also be part of their unconventional but sublime marketing strategy of being a `social company`, is American Apparels Legalize LA campaign. With a big banner on the pink factory in LA, and Ads in the papers, they make themselves strong for a more human immigration policy.

Better sexy ethics than unhappy workers
I am ambiguous about American Apparel and I think anyone concerned about ethical fashion should keep an eye on what is really being produced under ethical standards, and what is just part of a good marketing strategy. Because the "ethical light" of American Apparel can also hurt the movement as a whole.

I have my doubts about AA's real ethics, but they are just doubts. American Apparel also has had the courage to promote sweatshop free clothing and giving that a cool and rather sexy push. And therefor they deserve good credits.


Even hardcore feminists have to admit that basic (women) workers rights are more important than some sexistic advertisments. And why is the explicit gay magazine Butt lying around in all their stores? And why are so many American Apparel clothes unisex, even if they don`t say so? And what other fashion company puts meters high ads of an old lady wearing their underwear?

The sexism is here played as an edgy fashion game, so it is more about playing than about abusing. It is performative and provocative. Sexistic indeed, but meanwhile sexually progressive. Fashion from the friendly porn collective, if you like it.


Just keep aware of what you wear, and if you wear American Apparel, read these sources:

Business Week
Consumerist
Inc Com
Wikipedia
Behindthelabel

pictures taken from different American Apparel ads

2 comments:

Manuel said...

"Fashion from the friendly porn collective"

Haha... made my day :-)

linus said...

I bought a Shirt on lafraise.com. they use American Apparel. Unfortuantely AA seem to have a quality problem. I really cannot recommend the products.